Stickybottle speaks to Cycling Ireland CEO Geoff Liffey about the National Velodrome Project

Posted on: August 4th, 2017

Harry Reynolds, aka the Balbriggan Flyer, became Irelands first track cycling world champion winning the men’s sprint title in Copenhagen, 1896. 117 years later, Martyn Irvine repeated the feat becoming world champion winning the Men’s scratch race in Belarus. While our two track world champions are separated by more than a century, they shared a common challenge; Ireland does not have a national velodrome to prepare for international competition.

Martyn Irvine

In 2011 Cycling Ireland considered building an indoor velodrome at the old Fruitfield factory in Tallaght Co.Dublin, which was identified in preparation for submission to the Department of Sport for approval. Six years later, after achieving considerable success internationally with Irish track cyclists winning medals across a number of mens and womens disciplines, our best talent is still forced to travel abroad to train. In 2015 Fingal County Council granted full planning permission for an indoor track to be built at the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown. More than two years later the dream of having adequate training facilities is still very much a dream, however this may be about to change.

Following the successes for the Irish team at the recent European Track Championships, along with the official commencement of Phase 2 of the National Indoor Arena in Abbotstown on Tuesday, Sticky Bottle posed some questions this week to Cycling Ireland’s CEO Geoff Liffey regarding the National Velodrome project.

SB – Hi Geoff, just to start off at a high level, have Cycling Ireland a mission statement or similar for the provision of the velodrome? 

Shannon McCurley

GL – The Velodrome delivery is a specific KPI within our current strategy. It would greatly assist our ability to deliver on our current vision statement for 2020. “Cycling Ireland is the leading contributor of medals at World, Olympic and Paralympic levels whilst delivering sustained growth across all cycling disciplines and increased use of the bike across society” The current strategy can be viewed on our website.

SB – We understand you’ve met with Sport Ireland recently about the national velodrome, any developments from these meetings?

Martyn Irvine

GL – The main outcome was that the Velodrome was to be next on the list following the completion of Phase 2 of the Indoor Arena. This project has commenced now and is due for completion in 2018. This was referenced in a speech made by the Taoiseach on Tuesday at the sod turning for Phase 2.

SB – So is there a specific date to start or complete the velodrome construction?

GL – I would be reluctant to commit to a specific timeframe for the commencement of this project without some clarity from DTTS (Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport), however indicatively it would most likely be sometime in 2019.

SB – Ireland is pitching for Rugby 2023, does this concern you regarding the velodrome funding?

GL – No

SB – Ireland Women's Track Team in ActionA shared facility with Badminton Ireland has been proposed, so have formal approaches been made to them for a shared venue? Are they on board?

GL – Yes regular dialogue in place with them on this project and they are fully supportive of having a dedicated performance space and increased club capacity as currently they have to share space with other activities in the Indoor Arena.

SB – That’s good to hear, given Badminton Ireland are using the new indoor arena already in place at Abbotstown, would a facility for them in the velodrome be for training, competition or both?

GL – Major competitions for Badminton Ireland would go to the Arena as it would be better equipped to handle the capacity than the Velodrome, however regular training and club usage would be infield at the track. A key point is that both activities badminton and cycling will happen at the same time unless specifically reserved by one sport.

SB – What are the next steps for the project / funding?

GL – Seeking a formal response from DTTS on the feasibility report on the facility and ensure that there are no procurement issues that may delay the project once funding is confirmed. We will continue to lobby the relevant officials on the importance of this project for the sport and we anticipate continued support for Cycling Ireland’s High Performance Track program from Sport Ireland. I think it is also significant that the next Olympic program has recently been extended to add one more track medal with the Madison event coming back to the program. This is an event which Ireland has shown to be competitive at World level in recent times.

Felix English and Mark Downey in action

SB – Could Cycling Ireland members etc lobby politicians to encourage a higher priority for the velodrome?

GL – It is great to have the membership and public interest in this project, however I personally don’t see the need for any major government lobbying at this particular point. It is on the Government’s radar for completion and is to be the next major sports facility delivered at the campus site following the completion of the indoor arena Phase 2.

SB – Thanks Geoff for taking time to respond on these.

GL – Thanks.

Given the relevance of a national velodrome for the country, Stickybottle intends to continue to monitor progress on a regular basis and update readers as information becomes available.